Preobrazhenskiy on Chechnya reports:

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Konstantin Preobrazhenskiy, a former KGB agent who became one of the KGB’s harshest critics. He is the author of seven books about the KGB and Japan. His new book is KGB/FSB’s New Trojan Horse: Americans of Russian Descent.

FP: Konstantin Preobrazhenskiy, welcome back to Frontpage Interview.

I would like to talk to you today about Putin’s war on Chechnya, which we don’t really hear about much these days. Has Russia succeeded in stifling the Chechens? Fill us in on the latest developments.

Preobrazhenskiy: Thanks Jamie.

The situation in Chechnya is full of serious problems, but it is better than during the Chechen war in 1994, which the Russian authorities were not really ready to face at that time. The Northern Caucasus had been the terra incognita for the Kremlin leaders before the war. It may be explained by the fact that the local elite was not included into the higher hierarchies of the Soviet leadership, as was the situation with the Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani functionaries. The Kremlin leaders were very well aware of the situation in these three republics, as they themselves would pay regular visits to these republics, spending their summer vacations there and mingling with the higher echelon officials in informal gatherings. Yet the Northern Caucasus was living an isolated life while being governed by the provincial leaders from the local ethnic groups.  The Kremlin bureaucrats hardly ever visited them, as the area was considered the “back seat” of the Caucasus.

It stands to reason why the Kremlin was so much surprised with the staunchness of the Chechen rebels.  Some time had to pass before the Russians discovered the vulnerability of the Chechens: their subdivisions into clans. Other republics of the Northern Caucasus follow the same social pattern.

The FSB has now figured out that it only has to stir up the inter-clan rivalries in order to lessen the Chechen threat. This was a totally new understanding for Russia, as the Communist leaders were trying to tolerate the clan differences as atavism of the feudal epoch. Officially, the existence of the clans in the Caucasus and central Asia was totally ignored. Unofficially, it was taken into consideration by those who were allowed to speak about the clans: the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the KGB. But they simply were mostly concentrated on the belonging of this or that local leader to this or that clan and they tried to not allow people of the same clan to be concentrated too much in the local governments. In fact, their tactics were passive because clans were not acknowledged by Communist ideology.

FP: And the current Russian rulers are much more sophisticated, right?

Preobrazhenskiy: Yes absolutely. They are not restricted by ideology and nothing prevents them from stirring up and utilizing the inter-clan conflicts.

This is something that the Soviet authorities had never done before.  They had been governing the Northern Caucasus by methods rooted in the Communist ideology, aiming at the softening the ethnic distinctions and at creating “the new Soviet person.” The existence of the clans was altogether ignored. By manipulating the clans, the Kremlin only deepened the rift of distinctions. One clan was intentionally substituted by another in “favors” in order to plant hatred between them. For instance, during both Chechen wars, the Yamadayev clan was collaborating with the Russian troops a lot. In 2000, this clan began fighting on the Russian side after yielding the city of Gudermes to the Russian troops without any resistance.

Similar tactics were utilized in Ingushetia.  Ingushetia’s President Marat Zyazikov had been very loyal to Moscow and was disliked by his own people.  In November 2008, the Kremlin appointed a new President, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, who belonged to another family clan

FP: And what has Putin been doing?

Preobrazhenskiy: Putin has tolerated Chechnya by doing the thing which even the Russian tsars could not do: installing his own “Prince” there. The thing is that the Russian Empire colonized the Caucasus by bribing their princes and introducing them into the highest circles of the Russian aristocracy.  This method was very effective: the new members of the Russian nobility were becoming the flagmen of Russian interests in the Caucasus and, inevitably, sincere Russian patriots. They were granted all rights and privileges of Russian nobility.

In 1917, Khan of Nakhichevan, an Azerbaijani national and a Russian General, was the only Russian General to protest against the dethroning of the Tsar Nicolas II, even though all other “true” Russian Generals betrayed their Tsar.  General Khan of Nakhichevan refused to take the oath before the new government and was shot. As for Chechnya, its society was free. They did not have any princes. There was nobody to bribe, as everybody was equal. This factor contributed to Russians taking much bloodier methods in order to conquer Chechnya.

But what seemed impossible for the Imperial Russia became reality in current Russia: President Putin has corrected this historic blunder by placing a “Prince” in Chechnya. This “Prince” is none other than President Kadyrov. Unlike the real Prince, however, the latter has not been so much restricted by laws.  He has a free hand in anything he wants on one condition only: he must be loyal to the Russian government.  In fact, he can be compared to a Russian medieval vassal.

The Kadyrov’s clan is governing Chechnya now. They have supporters there.

FP: We can all remember very well a sincere all-national patriotic burst of the Chechens to get their national liberation in the early 1990s. Can this all-national burst be repeated now?

Preobrazhenskiy: I think, not. The Kremlin put the Chechen Republic under its most strict control.

18 responses to “Preobrazhenskiy on Chechnya

  1. @In 1917, Khan of Nakhichevan, an Azerbaijani national and a Russian General, was the only Russian General to protest against the dethroning of the Tsar Nicolas II, even though all other “true” Russian Generals betrayed their Tsar. General Khan of Nakhichevan refused to take the oath before the new government and was shot. As for Chechnya, its society was free.

    For a time being there was an Imamate theocracy of the Dagestani leader Shamil, trying hard to force them to quit smoking and dancing and such. Shamil failed and eventually surrendered to a house arrest-like internal exile. Two of his sons were taken a hostage and then became Russian officers.

    @For instance, during both Chechen wars, the Yamadayev clan was collaborating with the Russian troops a lot.

    In the first, no. (Or at least not openly.)

    @Similar tactics were utilized in Ingushetia. Ingushetia’s President Marat Zyazikov had been very loyal to Moscow and was disliked by his own people. In November 2008, the Kremlin appointed a new President, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, who belonged to another family clan

    General Yevkurov has a little if any clan following and links. Sure there was stuff like having his younger brother as a chief of security, but that’s family and not clan.

    Dagestani politics are much, much more clannish – and for a long time. (Also many different nationalities to begin with.)

    As of Chechnya, the clan system was effectively destroyed. Yes, Kadyrov favours his extended family (his cousins and their brothers and such) and pushes them into the leadership positions, but that’s more Borgia-family style than the Scottish clans or something.

    • Or maybe more like certain Sicilian families in modern Italy (that is if someone came and gave them the totalitarian-government powers). It’s not clan rule and it’s not even really political corruption. It’s just an extremaly powerful gang of relatives with a private army (the same applied to Yamadayevs in the past), and a private country too.

  2. And the failure of Putin’s policies thunders on on the Caucasus:

    Militants hit Russia power plant, killing two guards

    Armed militants have stormed a hydroelectric power station in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus region, killing two guards and detonating four bombs.

    TV footage showed fires raging at the plant, in the mainly Muslim republic of Kabardino-Balkaria republic.

    Officials said the fires were now under control, and that electricity supplies had not been affected.

    Analysts say it appears to be an escalation of Islamist insurgent attacks on Russian economic targets.

    “This shows the scourge of terrorism is not only not subsiding, but expanding geographically,” said Gennady Gudkov, deputy head of the security committee of Russia’s parliament, according to the Reuters news agency.

    • The “republic of Kabardino-Balkaria republic” is one of the hotter places this summer. The death of Astemirov did not really disrupt their activities, quite on contrary. In one simoultanous attack this month they blew up 6 different communication relay stations.

      Oh, and RFE/RL has basically the same conclusion:

      For years after the ill-fated multiple attacks on police and security facilities in Nalchik in October 2005 there had been little militant activity in Kabardino-Balkaria apart from sporadic isolated attacks on police.

      The attack on the Baksan power plant was the logical culmination of an upsurge in militant activity since April, when Djappuyev took command of the Kabardino-Balkar-Karachai jamaat following the killing in March of its legendary leader, Anzor Astemirov (Amir Seyfullakh).

      Since then, militant fighters have targeted police almost on a daily basis, and perpetrated a series of explosions, mainly in Baksan and the outlying area. Not all the explosions caused serious damage, but they may have been intended simply as “training exercises” in the use of explosives in preparation for the sabotage of the hydropower plant. Local news agency reported two cases in Kabardino-Balkaria last year in which fighters apparently blew themselves up or seriously injured themselves while handling explosives.

      It was Djappuyev who ordered the multiple attacks on mobile-phone relay towers in Kabardino-Balkaria earlier this month, according to a statement posted on the KBK jamaat website

      The attack on the power plant comes less than a week after the appointment of a new head of the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB).

      • Meeting with journalists in Nalchik on July 9, Kanokov linked both the upsurge in militant attacks over the past couple of months and the hunger strikes launched last week by representatives of the republic’s Balkar minority to the imminent end of his first term in office. He implied that both trends are being artificially orchestrated with the aim of thwarting his chances of a second term.

        At the same time, in a seeming contradiction, Kanokov said the intensification of militant activity is part of a broader effort by “certain international circles” to fuel instability in southern Russia. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and regional leaders including Ramzan Kadyrov and Yunus-Bek Yevkurov have similarly blamed the Islamic insurgency on foreign powers out to weaken Russia. None of them has ever explained why the West would covertly support the Islamic insurgency in the North Caucasus at a time when it is simultaneously battling the Taliban in Afghanistan.

        Kanokov’s claims that he is under pressure are open to question, however. Analysts are at a loss to identify a single serious challenger who is either qualified to replace him, or has expressed an interest in doing so. And Kanokov appears to enjoy the trust and support of Medvedev, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and North Caucasus Federal District head Aleksandr Khloponin, whose conviction that the region’s problems can largely be solved through judicious investment he shares.

        It was Putin, then Russian president, who in September 2005 selected Kanokov, a highly successful Moscow-based businessman, to succeed ailing KBR President Valery Kokov. Just weeks later, young Muslim fighters staged multiple attacks on police and security facilities in Nalchik, killing 35 police and security officials and 14 civilians.

        Most of those poorly trained fighters were either killed or captured, and for the next several years the incidence of militant attacks in Kabardino-Balkaria was far lower than in Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Daghestan. At the same time, Kanokov launched a concerted effort to promote dialogue between the KBR government and the population, especially the younger generation. To that end, he has established a permanent youth forum and a youth chamber of the KBR parliament, which comprises 33 deputies under the age of 30.

        But the threat posed by the Islamic insurgency has not gone away. On the contrary, over the past few months, since the appointment of Asker Djappuyev (aka Amir Abdullakh) to head the Kabardino-Balkaria-Karachai jamaat, that group has perpetrated dozens of attacks, mostly targeting police and security personnel or infrastructure (gas-distribution stations and mobile-phone relay facilities).

  3. Magomed Hanmagomedov has posted a video clip, apparently taken by one of the policemen who participated in this operation, on the newspaper’s website alongside his article. The clip features the dead body of a young man lying on the ground and covered in blood, and two other bodies inside a car. A voice apparently pleading not to shoot can be heard at the beginning of the video clip followed by a number of shots fired, and the voice of a man condemning the “borodachi” (“bearded men” – a reference to Islamic groups, although none of the three corpses appear to have a beard).

    Following the publication of his article, Magomed Hanmagomedov received phone calls from law enforcement officials expressing indignation at his article, and a number of mobile phone text messages from unknown numbers alleging that he was paid from abroad and working for militants. Magomed Hanmagomedov has been informed by a confidential source that the local prosecutor’s office might be preparing a criminal case against him. The Russian human rights group Memorial has expressed concern about the safety of Magomed Hanmagomedov.

    The security situation in Dagestan has deteriorated significantly over recent years. Amidst a high level of violence and lawlessness, human rights defenders and journalists have been threatened or killed, and disappearances and torture continue to be reported. Amnesty International has also received reports of police brutality. In a letter to the Prosecutor General of Russia on 25 June 2010, the organization expressed concern about severe beating of a young female lawyer by police at the police station in Khasavyurt on 17 June 2010, where she had come to see her detained client.

    There are regular reports of ambushes by militants against police and other officials, as well as of operations against alleged militants by members of law enforcement agencies, sometimes in violation of human rights safeguards. Questions have been raised repeatedly about the credibility of official reports, particularly those resulting in killings of suspected militants.

    In 2008, a criminal case was opened against Magomed Hanmagomedov, alleging that his publication had expressed extremist views and incited inter-ethnic hatred. Although the investigation failed to prove this allegation and the case was dropped, Magomed Hanmagomedov’s newspaper was forced to close. The newspaper Chernovik he currently works for has also been subjected to pressure and similar allegations have been made by the authorities against several members of its staff.

  4. 2 militants, officer killed in Chechnya
    GROZNY, Russia — Russian officials say two militants and a police officer have been killed in a shootout in Chechnya.

    Read more:

    • LES,

      Stuff like this is happening on semi-daily basis in Chechnya (daily in whole Caucasus).

      Russian media reported that since the start of 2010, militants in Dagestan have killed 82 law-enforcement officers and injured 131, while 60 militants were killed and 66 militants and accomplices were detained. Eleven civilians were killed and 57 injured in violence in the republic (ITAR-TASS, August 4).

      Chechnya’s interior ministry reported on August 3 that 51 insurgents have been killed and 128 insurgents and insurgent accomplices have been captured since the start of the year. According to the Kavkazsky Uzel website, some local observers believe these numbers may be exaggerated (, August 4).

      (+ Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, etc. Civilians are routinely classified as rebels, of course.)

  5. Chechen militant kills self, policeman in blast

    Today at 13:39 | Associated Press

    ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — Police in Chechnya say a militant detonated explosives as officers tried to detain him, killing himself and one policeman. Nine other officers were wounded.

    Read more:

    • They do this (going kamikaze) quite often.

      One time a group of Ingush fighters holed up in the capital Magas blew up whole building they were besieged in, with the power to destroy even the Russian vehicles parked outiside, and eliminating an entire detachment of OMON (which turned out to be sent there to their deaths from the faraway Murmansk).

      • What is a “detachement”? Do you mean the case when 4 Murmansk OMON officers were killed when storming a house? The one when the bombers detonated 70kg explosives, when they understood they are surrounded?

        But that was not in Magas, but in Nazran, another city. There was a militant islamist leader called “Magas”, “amir of Daghestan”. His people killed themselves and police officers in that explosion.

        The same man, Magas (Taziev) organized explosion of two passenger buses in Stavropol region. He was also one of those who prepared Beslan.

        He was arrested a year later and is now under examination for terrorist activities .

        • If you want to believe an explosion so powerful it completely overturned their armored trucks (I’ve seen it on a video, “70 kg” my ***), with all the shockwave and fragments, yet killed only 4 OMONs were killed (including the casualties from the shootout that proced it) and injured none, well, go on. Was this not an entire detachment, sent there from so far away, eliminated there? I don’t know, maybe one was lucky and got away in one piece and safe somehow.

          Magas is not really a city, not even a big village, more like a fortified government compound with few if any normal residents. A “city”? Really?

          Oh, and I just found out about this one, and it says about 20 or more of them went down in various state of damage (guess some of them expired later). I say “damage” because I like the cyber-like RIAN-speak of “destroyed militants” and the OMONs themselves appear to me as being quite robotic too. They were not from Vladivostok as I remembered it, but should have stayed in their Murmansk anyway:

          Meanwhile, on February 10, the militants killed a traffic police officer in the Tsentr-Kamaz neighborhood of Nazran—precisely the neighborhood where law enforcement officials launched a combat operation against the militants two days later. During this operation, four members of the Special Operations Police Squad (OMON) from the Central Directorate of Internal Affairs of Murmansk Oblast were killed and fifteen were wounded (Radio Ekho Moskvy, February 12). According to other reports, twenty-four people, including three city residents, were wounded during the operation (, February 13).

          Despite the fact that the house was completely leveled (and several other residential buildings in the neighborhood suffered collateral structural damage), the FSB hurried to inform the public that its operatives had found three passports of individuals who were on the federal wanted list as potential suicide bombers. The FSB identified a local resident Khasan Mutaliev as one of the three (aka “Mustafa,” according to the customary FSB version, he was presented as the local cell leader). The body parts as-yet-unidentified resistance fighters were also discovered at the blast site. According to the FSB version, these body parts may belong to two residents of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, 27-year-old Edgar Kopsergenov and 18-year-old Alina Okhtova (the FSB alleged that they were a married couple), as well as the resident of Tyumen Oblast, Sergei Mokin, who was an ethnic Russian. It was precisely this trio of outsiders who were supposed to undermine the authorities in the Republic of Ingushetia, according to the FSB’s version of events. To that end, according to the authorities, the three had apparently stashed 70 kg of TNT (, February 12). Subsequently, however, apparently the FSB decided that this amount was insufficient and it was increased to 800 kg of TNT (Interfax, February 13), but a day later this figure was once again inflated when it was rounded up to 1 ton of TNT (, February 14).

          Equally intriguing is the fact that the FSB assigned two nicknames to the slain Khasan Mutaliev: Mustafa and Abdullah. Apparently, the Russian security services do not see the obvious difference between two completely different nicknames. In the given case, Khasan Mutaliev is the brother of Hussein Mutaliev, who was shot in front of his family and taken to North Ossetia on March 15, 2007.

          • Bobby, what do you think, do they have relatives? How comes relatives did not mention the “whole detachement” was lost during the explosion?

            “@Equally intriguing ” check WP. He used two war names to communicate with another militants.

        • Also,

          @There was a militant islamist leader called “Magas”, “amir of Daghestan”.

          Magas is/was an Ingush.

  6. One Russian border guard dead, another missing
    Today at 15:09 | Associated Press MAKHACHKALA, Russia (AP) — The Russian border guard service says one of its officers has been killed and another, a unit commander, is missing in the country’s volatile south.

    The two border guards disappeared over the weekend in Dagestan, a republic in Russia’s North Caucasus where law enforcement officers come under daily attack from militants.

    Border guard spokesman Magomed Umalatov said Monday that one of the officers was found dead but the commander, a lieutenant colonel, was still missing. They were last seen in their vehicle, which also has not been recovered.

    It was unclear what had happened to them and the spokesman refused further comment.

    Also in Dagestan, police reported an attack Monday on the deputy major of the city of Kizlyar that left him badly wounded.

    Read more:

    • @Border guard spokesman Magomed Umalatov said Monday that one of the officers was found dead but the commander, a lieutenant colonel, was still missing.

      He was found later.

      (As I predicted this, he was found with his head seperately.)

  7. @The Kadyrov’s clan is governing Chechnya now. They have supporters there.

    Kadyrov’s home village burning down a week ago:

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